When I was first contacted about going to Kenya, I thought, “Gee, that would be a great! But I know my boss would probably not be able to let me go.” I had only been with the company for about 9 months and I knew that I had not accrued enough vacation time to go anywhere for three weeks. Jay encouraged me to ask anyway.
I approached my boss and asked if I could take 3 weeks off to go to Kenya; his response “Sure bud, we’ll work it out.”
The next thing I know, I am planning to go to Kenya. I prayed about the trip and felt the Lord wanted me to prepare medical supplies for the trip. I reached out to my friends in the medical community and was blessed with donations of all sorts of supplies. I received I.V. tubing, I.V. bags, Needles, syringes, 3 surgical trays, Nitroglycerin, Atropine, Epinephrine, Morphine, Xylocaine, Phenergan and a whole bunch of other medications.
My employer even kicked in and helped pay for the trip with a monetary donation towards the trip, they had t-shirts printed for us to hand out and held a company –wide collection for donations of clothing and school supplies. They even sent a laptop for me to leave with a minister in Kenya!
As the departure date approached, I realized that I was going to need a miracle to get all of this to Kenya – I sure didn’t want to end up in a Kenyan prison for smuggling drugs.
I packed all of the supplies into a trunk and checked it with my luggage. As we boarded the plane, I prayed, “Please Lord, I followed what you told me to do, I know you have a plan; I just wish I knew the plan.” Throughout the flight, I could not help but think about what was in my luggage and how I was going to get it through the Customs check at the airport in Nairobi.
When we landed in Nairobi, we proceeded to the Immigration check and showed our visas. Then we went down to get our luggage. The ball in my stomach had started as we landed in Nairobi. God had not yet revealed his plan, but I just had to trust that he was in control. We retrieved our luggage and out of sixty-six pieces of luggage, we were only missing one. I had my medical trunk and loaded it on a cart.
As we approached for the Customs check, my stomach was up in my throat. I had One Hundred Dollar Bills in my pocket in case I needed to “tip” the Customs agent. In every visit to a Third World country, it has been my experience that it is just customary to “tip” the Customs agents – It’s the way business is done there.
The Customs agent asked one of my Teammates how many pieces of luggage we had. She said, “Sixty-Six pieces!” Then the customs agent then moved out of the way and motioned us through! I was in disbelief, this has never happened to me before. As we started to walk out to the parking lot, I felt as if someone was going to run up behind me and say, “Sir, we missed you, we need to search your luggage.” Of course, it never happened. We proceeded to load our luggage in the couple of vans that had been sent to pick us up.
Once we made it to Kisumu, we spent a couple of days traveling to some of the area orphanages that our church has helped support over the years. Paul and Mandy Swilley have been active in this ministry for years and she knew everyone; and everyone knew her!
One of the first places that we went to was the Kisumu City Dump. John Rushing started a ministry there about five years ago and today, the ministry has blossomed into over One Hundred believers that meet together under a tree at the dump. They live in the city garbage dump and despite their physical place in the world, live to worship the Lord.
John shared the Gospel with the men and children of the dump and even more of them received Christ that day. Pastor Samson Otieno ministers to the men of the dump on a weekly basis and meeting that man was just a blessing. I know we are not supposed to have favorites, but Pastor Samson Otieno has a special place in my heart. It is obvious to all who are involved that he has a gift for sharing Christ with his people and he shows an unconditional love that can only be genuine.
We went to Ragan and saw the orphans that Pastor Samson Ojienda sees over. Pastor Samson had us to his house for lunch and by that time I was so tired that sleep was more important than food. I also don’t like fish, but as a guest in his home, I did not see that it would be acceptable to express my disgust for fish.
Before we left, a little boy named Maxwell showed up riding on a “Piki Piki” (Motorcycle). Mandy, our Team Leader, had told me many times about little Maxwell. She has a special place in her heart for this little boy who has fought AIDS and Tuberculosis all of his life. Maxwell looked and sounded horrible. It was crushing to see this little boy who was born without a chance at life.
We heard from Samson Ojienda that Maxwell had asked everyday about when we were coming back to see him. Due to his sickness, Maxwell was not able to live with the other orphans, so he did not want to be left out when his American friends came to visit.
Mandy and John Rushing took some time with Maxwell and it was apparent that this was probably the last time they would see each other. John and Mandy prayed with Maxwell and gave him a big hug.
Later, we found out that little Maxwell passed away about two hours after we left Ragan. It seemed to us that Maxwell held onto life just long enough to see Mandy and John one last time before he died.
That night, my roommate Henry got very ill. Henry was sick all night and the both of us stayed up. It was so bad that he even kept up some of the neighboring rooms. The next morning, I told Mandy that I was going to stay behind and help Henry out. Henry was still vomiting and I was growing concerned; I feared that he would be fighting dehydration and other issues associated with vomiting.
I went to the computer lab at the hotel to send my daily update to everyone on my mailing list. While I was there, sipping on my bottle of Stoney Tangawizi (a very strong Ginger Ale), I met a Chinese doctor named Pan. Pan was traveling the continent of Africa conducting Malaria research. The two of us talked for almost three hours. Pan schooled me about malaria and how to best treat the strain of malaria that was prevalent in the Nyanza province. He recommended a treatment called Artemesinin Combined Therapy (ACTs) which is produced by Artequik. I thanked him for his time and went back to my room.
I checked on Henry after breakfast and I offered to give him a bag of Saline to help fight dehydration. Henry refused the fluids saying, “You will need that for someone else, keep them.” So I decided to go out and try to find something else to help him. I had given Henry some phenergan orally for the nausea, but he could not hold it down. At this point, Henry could not even hold down water.
I took off on foot to Nakumatt and asked to see the Chemist. I asked to see if the Chemist had anything equivalent to phenergan that could be administered intravenously. The chemist said, “That is by prescription only, maybe you should try another chemist?” I tried four or five more chemists, but none of them would help me.
On my way back to the hotel, I saw another Chemist shop down a side street and figured I would give it a shot. I asked the Chemist if he had anything equivalent to Phenergan. His response was a little different, he said, “Sir, you need someone who is qualified to administer intravenous medication.” I told him that I was qualified and then he asked for ID.
Being that this chemist was obviously from the Middle East and all of his workers were Middle Eastern, I presented my Qatari driver’s license. The Chemist was surprised to see a Qatari license and told me that he had no problem with selling me what I asked for, but I still required a prescription. He introduced himself as Shakur and retrieved a notepad and pen from his office. Shakur handed me the notepad and pen saying, “Now, write your prescription.”
I asked for a Physician’s Desk Reference and the two of us figured out what would be the best course of action. Who would have thought, that not only would I find a Chemist that would help me, he would grant the privilege of writing prescriptions in his store? I paid 100KSE for the medicine and then gave Shakur 500KSE saying, “Thank you for helping my friend.” Shakur was surprised and said, “Anything you need, my friend, you come here, I will help you.” Then, I decided to pick up an adult course of ACTs just in case one of my teammates got Malaria. I figured, for $7USD, it could not hurt to have it on hand.
I raced back to the hotel to give Henry something for his nausea. At the very least, I wanted to give Henry some IV fluids to keep him from Dehydration. Of course, when I returned, Henry was still refusing to take anything insisting that someone else was in greater need.
I promised Henry that when he felt well enough to eat, I would get him something. Henry went back to bed to sleep off his exhaustion. He had been throwing up all night and into the morning, so he was just worn out. I lay down in my bed, I was tired from trekking all over Kisumu on foot and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
“Hey, Dave…Hey man, wake up!” Henry said. I looked at my watch and it said 0230hrs… I turned on the lamp and Henry sits up in bed and says, “Man, I am hungry! Let’s go find something to eat.” I was just in the deepest REM sleep known to man and now my roommate wants me to go walking the streets of Kisumu to find him something to eat. I got dressed and before I could get my shoes on, Henry was walking out the door.
I was glad to see that Henry had bounced back so quickly, but honestly, I was wishing that the miracle would not have manifested until the next morning.
Henry and I walked out of the front of the hotel and down the street towards Nakumatt. I did not realize that Nakumatt is a 24 hour grocery store. Henry got some cookies, crackers and juice and I figured why not get something too? I picked up a couple bottles of Stoney Tangawizi and some Coke. The two of us headed back to the hotel in the dark. There is nothing like taking a walk in an African city in the middle of the night.
Upon our return to the hotel, Henry and I chowed down on our goodies that we had picked up at Nakumatt and then Henry went back to sleep. I was wide awake and despite trying to lay in the dark with my iPod, I could not get back to sleep.
The next morning, we went down to breakfast and watched as the hotel staff wiped off the used silverware from the night before. I could have made the whole trip without having to know that. Apparently, the blue and white cloth is for heavy soiled utensils, the dingy white cloth is for lightly soiled silverware. I looked at breakfast and then we started our day.
The group split into two teams for the day, most of the women went to Chemilil to conduct crafts for the children and the men went to Otho to continue construction on the orphanage dormitory. Jeremy, one of our medical trained teammates, went with the women’s group and so did Henry. Henry was still on the rebound and although he would have liked to have been helping with construction, it was clear to all of us that his body needed at least another day before anything strenuous.
We arrived in Otho and the locals were already hard at work. They were using hand tools. I got to use a chisel and hammer to make the cut outs in the wood frame for the windows. Later in the morning, I was handing sheet metal to the guys who were putting on the roof. I would have gotten up there, but honestly, I am not sure the framing would have held me.
At lunch, we shared the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches that we had brought with us and one of my teammates brought a cooler with iced cold drinks. The locals who were working construction with us really appreciated having something cold to drink. I brought cookies that I handed out to everyone and we all enjoyed taking a couple of minutes of rest.
Soon after we had finished lunch, I received a phone call from our Team Leader, who was in Chemilil, saying that Jeremy wanted me to come out there and give a second opinion – something about a boy who had a hurt thumb. They said they were sending a driver and so I walked out to the road and waited wondering what was going on?
When the driver arrived, I asked him what was going on, but he did not know. I could not figure out why Jeremy would need a second opinion, he is proficient in emergency medicine. I said a little prayer and then focused on what I had in my medical kit and did an inventory in my head of all of the tools that I had at my disposal. As we neared the village of Chemilil, I donned my nitrile gloves and tried to prepare myself for whatever it was that was going on.
As I got out of the van, I was met by some of my team members who showed me to a small room where a boy named Collins was sitting with his hand in a bowl that was filled with a solution of betadine and water. Jeremy informed me that Collins had gotten his thumb caught in the sprocket of a bicycle chain a month ago and the clinic they gone to had wrapped the thumb in gauzes. No one had given instructions on how to care for the wound, so it was still wrapped in the same gauzes a month later.
Jeremy had tried to soak the thumb in betadine and water to help loosen the adhesive properties of the bandage, but all attempts had failed. I asked Collins to take his hand out of the solution and the minute I saw his hand, I knew that he would lose the thumb, maybe even the hand. Collins had an infection that had spread throughout his hand and his capillary refill on all of his digits on that hand was in excess of 20 seconds.
I took a closer look at the hand and saw how the bandage had integrated with the thumb during the initial healing process and would have to be surgically separated. I started Collins on antibiotics and then performed a nerve block on his hand to provide some temporary pain relief.
Giving the nerve block was like changing the tire on a moving car. The minute Collins saw me pull out a syringe and needle, he started squirming trying to get away from me. A villager held his hand on the table as steady as he could and I prepped his hand with an alcohol swab. I stopped what I was doing and asked someone to translate what I was saying. I looked into Collins’ eyes and said, “By the time this is over, you and I will be friends.” Collins shook his head wide eyes showing his disagreement.
After giving the nerve block, Collins stopped crying and looked up at me trying to figure me out. I can’t imagine what he was thinking – “What is this big white bald man with a goatee doing sticking needles in my hand?”
Then, Collins took his left hand and poked at his right hand. He then touched his right hand and started prodding it realizing that it no longer hurt. A smile broke across Collins’ face from ear to ear that illuminated the room. His father, Paul, told me that Collins had not smiled since the day he hurt his thumb.
We made a hasty exit from Chemilil to take Collins to the Kisumu District Hospital. During the ride, our driver translated for us; neither Collins nor his father Paul spoke much English. Collins was very happy to ride in the front seat with his father, this was his first time to ride in a vehicle like this.
Our driver dropped us off at the Kisumu District Hospital and then took the rest off the team back to the hotel. As we entered the grounds of the hospital, I couldn’t help but think of how much this hospital reminded me of a commie block hospital. The smell that greeted us was that of raw sewage and human death. The bouquet of flavor was accentuated by the drab colors of faded green and yellow concrete walls and the moans of suffering coming from those who were waiting to die.
We made our way to the Emergency Room waiting area; a patio area with crude wooden benches full of sick and dying people. There was a woman holding her baby who was very ill with Malaria and another man who was constantly vomiting off of the patio. After about 20 minutes of waiting, I asked what the procedure was to get seen by the doctor. The nurse told me that we needed to first go to the administration desk and pay for a records book, then wait in line.
After a couple of hours of waiting, we were finally able to get Collins admitted to the hospital so that he could wait for the infection to regress before having his thumb amputated.
The following day, I went up to the hospital to check on Collins. I found his father Paul outside of Ward 5 pacing around and he said that he really needed to go back and see to his family. Collins’ cousin had come to the hospital to see after him while Paul went back to Chemilil. We gave Paul a ride with us to Chemilil and I went out to the other side of Chemilil to preach a sermon.
I was not informed that I had a speaking engagement until we were halfway there and Pastor Samson Ojienda told us that he had promised that one of us would go to Pastor Jack’s church to preach. They needed a volunteer and I was the only one who was not scheduled, so I got volunteered.
Oh dear, now I am in the van on my way to a church where I am going to be preaching and I have no idea what to do. This is a good time to work on your prayer life. I opened my Bible and saw John Chapter 13. What could be better than washing the pastor’s feet the way that Jesus had washed the feet of the disciples to show a servant’s heart?
I got out to Pastor Jack’s church and he brought me to the front of the church and sat me beside the pulpit. The church was constructed out of Sheet metal on a wood frame and it had dirt floors. There had to be 60 people packed into this little place. They were singing in Luo and although I could not understand it, it was great!
When it came time for me to preach, Pastor Jack told me that he would translate for me. I got up and thanked everyone for welcoming me to their church and then I began to read from John Chapter 13. When I got to the part where Jesus took a cloth and knelt in front of the disciples, I asked Pastor Jack to sit down. Jack sat down and then was horrified when he saw me kneel to wash his feet. The entire church sat on the edges of their benches and chairs and looked with disbelief as I continued to read.
Pastor Jack stopped me and said, “You cannot do this, you are our guest. It would not be right.”
I then asked him to tell everyone in Luo what he had just said. Pastor Jack translated what he had said and then looked at me as if to say, “What now?”
I then read what Peter said to Jesus, “ You cannot wash my feet…”
Pastor Jack translated as I continued to wash his feet and read from John 13. The entire church was silent and most of them were covering their mouths. They could not believe what they were seeing. I closed by telling them that Jesus wanted us to look after each other. Only through humbling ourselves through service to a brother in need, will we be able to walk with him.
The entire church congregation sat silently trying to absorb what I was teaching. Pastor Jack thanked me for preaching and told me that he would never read that scripture the same again.
After church was over, I was invited to have lunch with Pastor Jack and his family in the church. They pulled out a table and some chairs and we dined on Chapati, Ogali, Chicken stew and Beef Stew. It was a meal fit for a king; well, a Kenyan King anyway.
I showed my appreciation and then we left. Pastor Jack thanked me again before leaving and told me that it would probably take a while for everyone to understand what I was teaching, reassuring me that I had done well.
It wasn’t until I got back in the van that my driver commented on the sermon. He said, “You know, the bottle of water you used to wash Jack’s feet is too expensive for these people to even think of drinking, much less wash their feet. Maybe next time, you use water from the creek to wash feet and give the bottle of water to someone who wants clean water.”
Needless to say, I felt pretty stupid for this oversight, but Pastor Jack reassured me that it was not that big of a deal. Note to self – do not pour clean drinking water on the feet of the pastor when the entire church drinks from a muddy creek.
Pastor Jack caught a ride with us to pick up everyone and then head out to Ragan. We were to attend the funeral for little Maxwell who had died a few days earlier. Apparently, Samson Ojienda was telling whoever he wanted to that they could ride with us, so we had to sit in each other’s laps. It was interesting.
When we arrived in Chemilil, Paul was waiting for us and I asked him if his family had food for the next three days. I explained that we would probably not be back for a couple of days and that we needed to make sure that his wife was set with food before leaving. He said that they did not have enough food for three days and that he would need to come back the next day.
I asked Paul how much it would cost to feed his family for three days. Paul said, “Eighty Shillings.”
Eighty shilling is a little more than one US dollar. I gave Pastor Boaz 400KSE and asked him to look after Paul’s family. Boaz said it would not be a problem and Paul seemed happy with the arrangement.
We arrived at the funeral and everyone had gathered waiting for us to arrive. Samson Ojienda asked each of us to speak during the funeral. I had only met Maxwell the day that he died. Mandy was two hours away so I spoke on her behalf and told about how although I had not known Maxwell, I had heard plenty about him. Mandy had told me about her “son” in Kenya. Mandy loved that child with love that only a mother could have. It was a great testimony to all of us to see Mandy care for that boy and give him a huge hug despite the disease that he was carrying.
When I thought about it, Mandy and John were probably the only ones who truly showed that little boy love. It made me very sad to think about it that way, but it caused me to examine my own life.
Upon leaving Ragan, we got lost on the trails leading back to the road from the funeral. At one point, we ended up getting out to push the vehicle over the ruts in the trail that we got stuck in. Our driver was lost and that meant I was really lost. We drove around among the trees for a while and finally came across a young boy on a bicycle.
The driver asked the boy to lead us to the road and we followed him out. When we reached the road, we gave him a tip of 200KSE, which is more than a week’s pay for most Kenyans. He was very excited and stuck the money in his pocket and tried to contain his excitement.
We started back towards Kisumu to go to the hospital to see how little Collins’ was doing. We had already lost one boy, but at least with Collins, there was something that could be done. As we were driving, Collins’ father Paul was shouting something to our driver. I didn’t understand, because I don’t speak Luo, but he was very excited. The driver asked me if he could get off the road and follow the instructions that Paul was giving. I said, “Why not?”
Our driver listened to Paul and drove us through a village that was definitely off the beaten path. We got on the other side of the village and took a left down a dirt path. Finally, we arrived in front of a mud hut with a thatched roof. Paul got out and told the driver that this was his mother’s house.
Paul’s mother spoke some English and thanked us for helping her Grandson Collins. She told us that if we were ever back in Kenya, we were welcome in her home. She had us sit down on the couch and introduce ourselves. This woman was so happy to have us in her home. Paul’s mom is a Christian and she told us that she was hoping that Paul would start trusting God and become a Christian. After a few minutes, we said our goodbyes and left Paul’s mother’s house. Paul was so grateful that we took the time to stop and see his mother. He had tears in his eyes and told us that he needed a Bible in Luo.
We got back to the Kisumu District Hospital late in the day and checked on Collins. Luke had stayed with him all day and apparently had not only been successful in entertaining Collins, but the entire Hospital Ward!
The next day, Luke, Henry and I went to the hospital to visit Collins. Luke brought his guitar and I brought a Bible that I found in Luo for Paul. We visited with Paul, Collins and his cousin Emily. I met a woman suffering from Malaria and I asked the doctor what the treatment was. The doctor said, “We put ice under her arms every 4 hours…” I asked if that helped. He said, “It helps keep the fever down. If her body fights the infection, she will live; if not, then she will die.”
After the doctor walked away, I asked the family if I could help them. I gave them the dose of ACTs that I had bought at Shakur’s Chemistry shop. I gave them instructions on when to take each dose and then went back to Collins.
The next day when we arrived at the hospital, the woman with Malaria greeted me by saying “Jambo!” (Hello in Swahili). She was obviously feeling much better and the doctor took me aside to share his displeasure with me for treating his patients. I was told that I am not a doctor that I should mind my own business. I have hearing damage in my right ear and it just so happened that the doctor was on my right side, so I guess I didn’t hear him very well. ?
We checked on Collins and quite frankly, Paul was beginning to smell like the hospital. The concrete walls with open windows only seem to trap the flies and the stench inside while fresh air breezes by outside.
I invited Paul to leave with me and go get something to eat. Luke stayed behind to entertain Collins.
On the way back to my hotel, I bought Paul a pair of pants and some new underwear. We stopped at the café in the hotel and I bought him lunch. Paul ordered Ogali and some chapati. I urged him to get something more substantial and after some convincing, he ordered a Samake Plate (Fish). The waiter brought this large plate with a whole Tilapia sitting in a bed of rice with a side of chapati and greens. Paul had three bottles of Coke and after dinner sat back in his chair full as a tick.
I then invited Paul to my room. When I opened the door to my room, he stood in the doorway soaking in all of the cold air that was rushing by him. He told me that he had not been in an air conditioned room before and this was wonderful. Of course we had our communication issues, but we were able to get along. Paul speaks very little English, but my Luo is worse.
I then showed Paul to the bathroom and handed him a towel, a new shirt and some soap. He closed the door. Then, he emerged from the bathroom about 5 minutes later and asked me to show him what to do. I had not even considered that Paul had not ever bathed with indoor plumbing.
Once I gave Paul a quick orientation on how to operate the shower, I left him to get cleaned up. An hour and a half later, Paul emerged a new man. He was wearing a new pair of pants, a nice clean shirt and was standing about a foot taller. Paul took a seat in the chair in our room and leaned back and just soaked it all in. It brought a new appreciation for A/C and running water to watch this man kick back and live like a king for an afternoon.
Paul and I returned to the hospital to find out that the Doctor had just come by and was scheduling the amputation for the next morning. Luke and I left at the end of the day and went back to the hotel. We knew the next day would be a long one.
Pastor Samson Otieno, the minister that works with the men and boys at the dump, came by our hotel to see me. I had invited him over so I could train him on some of the new programs that Microsoft has such as Office 2007. His laptop was an old ratted out HP that was barely running Windows 2000. Samson graciously took instruction on the laptop that I placed before and after a couple of hours, told me that he really appreciated my help, but no one in his area even had a computer this nice. He said, “ I will not see these programs again for a couple of years and by then, I’m afraid that I will forget how to use them.” I asked him to click on the Start menu and look at the name at the top. He clicked on the Start menu and saw that it said “Samson.” He looked at me and said, “This computer has the same name as I do!” I kept staring at him and he finally understood why I was training him. Samson could not believe that I was leaving this laptop with him. He told me that he had prayed that God would send him another computer.
Samson had been using the computer that he had to train the orphans and anyone from the dump that wanted to learn how to type and learn basic computer skills. Of course, this is a great program that will give some of these kids some sort of experience with a computer and may lead to a job.
I made it clear that I was not giving the laptop to him, it had been donated by my company and that I was just supposed to give it to the right guy and that was him. Samson was so grateful that all he could do was weep and then give me a crushing hug.
Luke and I were right, the next day was long. We sat around all day waiting for the Surgeon to come in and get Collins for the amputation. At the end of the day, they told us that the surgeon had already left but it would happen tomorrow.
The next day, we waited all day for the surgeon. It never happened. But during the day, I heard a woman singing “It is Well with my Soul.” I got up and started walking around trying to find out who was singing, it was barely audible, but I heard her voice.
The hospital ward is a long rectangular concrete building with beds protruding from the walls. The wiring of the hospital was so old that it did not work anymore and there were exposed wires hanging from the ceiling. There are mosquito nets over most of the beds and the old Blue and Cream painted walls are stained with the suffering of the patients who have died there. The smell inside the ward is a pungent combination of various bodily fluids, burned flesh and dirty linens. Flies come and go as they please and it is just a horrible place to be in for any amount of time.
As I searched through the ward to find who was singing, I made eye contact with all of the patients. Some were reaching out to me and I held their hands. The look of pain and despair was quickly replaced with a smile; all it took was a caring touch. I took out candy and passed it out to the patients. All of them were very grateful. This one woman was burned so badly that the digits on her hands were melted together and her thumb and index finger were permanently sealed together. I opened her candy for her and fed it to her. She held out her burnt arms to give me a hug and I hugged her back. She kept saying “Asante, Asante” (Thank you, Thank You).
As I walked further through the ward, I saw the woman who was singing and I was shocked to see how badly she was burned. She had third degree burns from her chin to her groin and was lying totally exposed in her bed. I could even see her sternum the burns were so deep. The man next to her told me that he spoke English and offered to translate. She said, ‘Hello, Praise the Lord.”
I was amazed that his woman was lying in unimaginable pain and yet, she was singing praises to God. I asked the man to find out what medication they had her on. She said that she was given nothing for pain and no antibiotics. I then flagged down the nurse who told me that the woman could not afford anything, but they were putting Plaster of Paris on her burns every 4 hours. I asked the nurse to give me her prescriptions and I would get them filled at the pharmacy.
When the nurse left, I asked the woman to roll on her side while I gave her something for pain. After giving her an injection of morphine, she rolled on her back and thanked me again. She had been telling the man something over and over, but he refused to tell me what she was saying. What he told me was stunning and stopped me in my tracks.
I asked the man, “What is she saying?” He said, she is talking crazy, don’t listen to her. I asked again and finally he told me. “She said that she has been praying to God to take care of her and this morning God told her that he was sending help, that is why she was singing” he said. I was awestruck.
I made a visit to see my favorite Chemist Shakur and he was able to get me what I needed to take back to this woman. I started her on Cipro in lieu of the antibiotics that had been prescribed because of the high risk of infection. This was not some ordinary cold, this was a huge gaping wound that was open inside of a huge petri dish of infection. I figured she needed all the help she could get.
Once I got back to the hospital, I found out that yet again, Collins would have to wait for “Tomorrow” to have his amputation. One of the doctors in Ward 5 took me off to the side and again told me that I was not to be helping his patients. He said the more I did for their patients, the less they would do for mine. Of course, he was standing on my right side, so I didn’t hear him very well.
For everyday that we went to the hospital, we ended up finding someone who was in great need. What was even more compelling is that none of what they needed would cost any more than a cheeseburger and fries here in the United States; yet, they could not afford it.
After days of listening to the doctors in Ward 5 tell me that Collins would have to wait another day, I took the matter in my own hands. I went to the Hospital Administrator’s office and explained that we were leaving soon and that I wanted to see my patient get his surgery before we left. I then took out a good amount off medical supplies from my backpack and showed them to the Hospital Administrator.
The Administrator immediately focused on the little bottle of Nitroglycerin that I had put on his desk and exclaimed, “This is nitroglycerin, I cannot even get this. My father has a heart condition and this could save his life!” I agreed saying, “Yes, it could.”
Then I started to put the supplies back in my bag and started to walk out of his office. I stopped just before getting to his door, turned and said, “All of this is yours when my patient gets his surgery.” Then I left.
When I got back to Ward 5, the surgeon had just arrived and was giving instructions to the staff in Ward 5 regarding the order of the surgeries that were to take place. Collins was first on the docket. I asked the surgeon if I could accompany Collins and he flat out said, “NO!’
After a few minutes of wrestling with Collins, the surgeon came out of the surgical ward and asked Collins’ father if he would help hold Collins down for the procedure. Paul said, “No, I want Muzungu to be there.” (Muzungu means white man) The surgeon reluctantly led me into the surgical ward. The minute I saw what was going on, I insisted that he must use general anesthesia because he was going to have to take bone.
The surgeon got angry with me and said, “I am a surgeon, you are not a doctor. This is my surgical ward and I will do things my way. If you are going to stay here, you will shut up and do it my way.”
Of course, he must have been on my right side because I didn’t hear any of that. I handed the surgeon sterile gloves and insisted that he wear them for the procedure. I also produced a sterile needle and Xylocaine for the nerve block. The surgeon was not happy, but he used the supplies that I had given to him.
Once again, I suggested general anesthesia and the surgeon told me that he would not have to remove much flesh to debride the wound and he would not have to take bone, so only a local anesthetic would be necessary.
The floor in the procedure room was stained with blood and other bodily fluids, the lack of hygiene was pretty startling. It was almost as if I had been dropped into a horror film and I was sitting down with the butcher.
The surgeon gave Collins the nerve block and then grabbed the end of his thumb. To my dismay, the surgeon tugged on the bandage that was integrated into the flesh and the flesh on Collins’ little thumb came off; all the way back to the first knuckle. Being that this was less than 30 seconds after receiving the nerve block, Collins felt every bit of it. I struggled to hold Collins down and it hurt him so bad that I cried. The doctor sat back and in a matter of fact tone said, “Oh, I will have to take bone. Ok, we do it tomorrow.”
With that, I exploded and told the surgeon, “No, you will do it now. Not tomorrow, not next week, Now!” The surgeon got pretty angry with me and told me to either leave the surgical ward or he would have me removed. He said, “this is my surgical ward, you do not tell me what to do, I run this place, get out of here before I call someone to have you removed!”
I stepped out of the ward and called the hospital administrator. I told him that I was leaving with my patient because the surgeon would not perform the surgery. He insisted that I stay and wait for him, he would be right there.
When the administrator arrived, he took the surgeon into the surgical ward and had a “conference” with him. Despite my poor hearing, I heard every Swahili word and although I understand very little Swahili, I could tell that the administrator really needed the nitroglycerin in my backpack.
The surgeon came back out looking like a whipped puppy and he said that surgery would begin in 10 minutes. They put Collins to sleep and then took his thumb off with a pair of Channel locks and a bolt cutter. Although I did not like their methodology, it was effective.
Then, they carried Collins out and laid him down on a bed until he would wake up. I asked about pain medicine and the doctor told me that they would not give him anything until he woke up. Believe me, when Collins woke up, he let all of us know. I can’t imagine waking up after my thumb was removed and having nothing for pain, but I am sure it hurt.
Once he was sent back to Ward 5, Luke and I headed back to the hotel. We were physically and emotionally exhausted after a day like that. I felt guilty as we left the hospital. I felt as if they had given worse treatment to Collins to spite me for treating their patients. I was pretty upset about it, but I just dealt with it.
That night, I remember I was so upset about what that boy had gone through that it took my appetite and I was close to tears until I went to bed. I prayed that night asking for help. Here I am, I brought all of these medical supplies to Kenya to help people and I knew that I was supposed to leave them with someone, but whom? I had a whole trunk full and I had no idea who I was supposed to leave them with. We were leaving in less than two days and again, I had to ask God – “Lord, I know you have a plan, could you just tell me what it is? I brought these supplies and I have found no one that I should leave them with, could you just reveal them to me please?” Apparently, my timing is not God’s timing and it frustrates me at me times. I need to learn to just keep my mouth shut and trust in the Lord. (Make note of this)
The next day, we went to see Collins and he was jumping around on his bed. Apparently, the pain medicine was working wonders for him and Paul was in good spirits too. As I walked to get a drink from the Kiosk that sold Cokes, a doctor from another ward ran up to me saying, “Muzungu, will you speak to me?”
“Of course,” I said, “what is it?”
“I have seen you for many days, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“I have a patient in Ward 5,” I said.
“Oh, is one of your people sick?” he asked.
“No, one of your people is sick,” I replied.
The doctor then listened as I told him about Collins’s thumb and the treatment that had been given up to this point. Then he cut in and started telling me about how important it was that Collins get quality post-operative care and that a re-occurrence of the infection would just put him back to where he started. I was happy to hear these words come out of his mouth and then the doctor asked where Collins was from. When I told him Chemilil, the doctor exclaimed, “I am from Chemilil!”
The doctor offered to check on Collins and change his dressings. He said that he would take out Collins’ stitches and see to it that he took his antibiotics. I pulled out 5,000KSE and offered to pay the doctor in advance for his care. The doctor pushed the money back to me and said, “I do this for the boy, not the money.”
I had to say my goodbyes to Collins and Paul. I had grown so close to little Collins that it was hard to leave him behind. Paul thanked us for saving his son and it made the entire trip worth it, even if it was only to help in that one aspect. Luke and I got into a TukTuk (little taxi) and waved goodbye to Collins and Paul as we rode down the street.
The next morning, I got a text from Paul that a doctor had come by their hut in Chemilil to check on Collins. I knew at that instant that the doctor I had met was holding true to his word. I arranged for the trunk of medical supplies to be taken to Chemilil and given to the doctor on one of his visits to see Collins.
We then left Kisumu to go to the Masai Mara and got a couple of days of rest and relaxation before heading back to the states. While we were at the Mara, I got text messages from Paul telling me that Collins was doing better . I got the update about the stitches coming out too!
Once we returned to the United States, I got an e-mail from Pastor Boaz that let me know that Paul had become a member of his church and rededicated his life to Christ. Boaz made arrangements to get Paul’s children into his school despite the fact that they are nor orphans; and the doctor got his medical supplies and said that it was more than he got in a year.
As you can see from this experience, everything was planned and it all came together. There were times when I thought maybe the plan was not working the way it should, but God showed me that he was in control and taught me a lesson about trusting him. When I look back on this whole experience, it is amazing to see all of the little miracles that happened along the way and how God used the strengths of everyone on the team to have an effect.
I cannot wait until I get the chance to go on another mission trip to Kenya or wherever God calls me to go. I have taken notes and next time, I hope I can just trust in the Lord and not fret over the details. God had his hand in everything that we did and it all worked out better than any of us could have ever planned ourselves.
This experience will stay with me for a lifetime. It was wonderful.